EXTREMES INSTRUCT MIND, and Man, The Extreme Animal

Usually, when thinking of man, one thinks of something noble, higher, ponderate, endowed with Roman “gravitas”, wise. To put it in one expression: Homo Sapiens.

However, where does all this wisdom come from? Experiments! And how, why, would one experiment? By going crazy! Craziness, and a love for extremes. Why? Because: Extremes instructs.

Wingsuit Flier Above French Alps. The rocky twin tower below the flier is the Drus, where yours truly made a semi-demented first ascent (on the other side). I had been a bit riled, after being nearly wiped out by the biggest rock avalanche I ever saw. However the entire pillar collapsed from greenhouse warming a few years later… Demonstrating the lightness of being even with the heaviest mountains.

Going to extremes is how science is made. Every paradigm shattering experiment in physics consists into forcing nature into an extreme apparatus (be it a telescope, microscope, Stern-Gerlach device, cyclotron, or forcing a virus into circumstances which weaken it, until it can be injected for vaccination, etc.).

Going to extremes happen even in mathematics: there, researchers typically play first with baby examples (which are extreme in the sense of being extremely simple, or extremely computable, etc.). For these extremes, they excavate general principles that they then rework in a general theory. (For example, the general theory of curved spaces, pre-Euclid, and before the invention of connection theory by Levi-Civita, assumed spaces with constant curvature, such as the surface of the Earth; that was extreme, in the sense of extremely simple.)

So here we are, and our power has exceeded our planet. To save our environment, we need to extent it through the galaxy, commensurate to our power. We can’t dial back power: our earthly environment, which we have already mauled, will be the first to succumb. So all speed forward, beyond all the last frontiers…

Extreme behaviors have always characterized man. Because we experiment, and experiments are, by definition, risky.  “Per” meant  risk, initially. To engage in risky behavior, we need extreme passion, like the heroes of Homer.

“Plus Oultre!” as Charles Quint put it in his native French: More Beyond!

Science itself is a love of extreme: the meta-motivation of science is to go beyond whatever was figured out prior.    

Experienced extreme-sports enthusiasts are often not reckless, nor do they have some sort of Freudian death wish. Instead, “older” extreme athletes — those who are past their mid-20s — exercise deep care proportional to the high risk involved by the art they specialize in. The analogy with science is striking. Most practitioners of extremely dangerous sports are highly intelligent people, methodological and systematic. They spend years studying the environment and the mechanics involved in order to make it as safe as it possibly can be, in that general framework of extreme danger.

And generally, they have a an extreme goal in mind. The French specialist of wingsuits, who launched the modern version of the sport, wanted to achieve controlled wingsuit landings (he died in Hawai’i, probably from confusion in a jump to resulting from jet lag).


It is often said, and observed, that humans can be, or are, evil. This is caused, in part, by the love of extremes, the love of experiment.

So is it the love of understanding which pushes to extremes, or the love of extremes which pushes towards understanding? That’s a chicken and egg problem: they evolved together, and are not really distinguishable, being both unavoidable parts of the same mechanism.

This also explains why top thinkers all too often get hated and ridiculously molested: as per their art, they are forced to be, in some ways, extreme. At least, relative to the commons. The founder of cynic philosophy Diogenes of Sinope and his admirer the extremely clever Alexander the Great understood this perfectly well.

Of course the New York Times does not. It does not want to. That plutocratic media calls “provocateurs” “hate mongers”, and explain they have to be violently censored to prevent “torment”! Says the NYT: “By all means, we should have open conversations and vigorous debate about controversial or offensive topics. But we must also halt speech that bullies and torments. From the perspective of our brain cells, the latter is literally a form of violence.”

By all means”? Really? Was not the point of the NYT the exact opposite?

I do agree that speech can be violence. However, to explicitly point at people who “provoke” thoughts, and accuse them of causing “torment” is not understanding that we gain insight from extremes.

Thus, the New York Times’ theory of censoring all my comments was grounded in a conspiratorial theory to avoid inflicting torment on plutocrats.

Some will say I am incoherent: I condemned “thought crimes” long ago, and asked for a “Minister of Truth” (underlying the minister of Justice). However the difference are significant: the Qur’an calls to kill some category of people (the Bible does the same, but less… Actually Qur’an refers approvingly to the death sentence against homosexuals in the Bible). If that’s preached as a part of the religion, which it is, stricto sensu, that’s incitation to murder. If done to children it adds child abuse, child endangerment, child pornography, corruption of the youth, etc.

Whereas the New York Times has actively censored scholars who disagree on Quantitative Easing, the capture of politics by plutocracy, calling Islamophobia racism, or whether Christianism terror caused the decline and fall of the Roman State.

The problem with avoiding confrontation in the guise of comfort, is that extremes instruct. No confrontation, no instruction. The New York Times affects not to understand that (in truth it’s just serving the multibillionaire plutocrats who own it, and are hateful of all those who disparage their status).

A young Egyptian yesterday swam to a resort. There, he killed by stabbing, two German tourists. Captured, he recognized that he had “espoused the ideas of Jihadism”. Jihadism in the sense of the literal Qur’an is a vicious ideology incompatible with civilization. Literal Koranic Jihadism is an example of a mentality espousing ideas and practices revealed to be too extreme when they lead to kill innocent people.

Absent real killing and injuring of people, anything should go in the realm of ideas. Fiction literature and movies (even documentaries) are all about letting imagination roam.  

And it better. Because only ever more true ideas will save humanity, and those are born at very high temperature, so high old mental automatisms can melt the erroneous past in a fiery embrace.

Extreme behaviors are us. Including the worst, they are necessary to think forward and anew. There lays survival, and nowhere else.

Patrice Ayme’  


6 Responses to “EXTREMES INSTRUCT MIND, and Man, The Extreme Animal”

  1. benign Says:

    Yes, and all this dates back to the discoveries of the first experimental psychologist, Max Wilhelm Wundt, who discovered the preference for subjective novelty (which stimulates arousal). Moderate levels of subjective novelty are pleasurable, more extreme levels produce the best performance. The whole “anti-fragility” spiel is just warmed over “eu-stress” and adaptation level theory. (Can you sense how much I dislike that person?)

    However, it is good to remember that the evolutionary adaptive response very extreme arousal (threat) levels is to play dead (literally, to enter a catatonic state; see the book “The Body Keeps the Score” about responses to trauma).


  2. De Brunet D'Ambiallet Says:

    Extremely instructive. Thanks.

  3. Gmax Says:

    So we have to tolerate extremes?

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